Orange open exhibition season with 77-56 win
It was only an exhibition game, but the 10,257 fans in attendance were anxious to find some answers to the many questions surrounding the Syracuse University men's basketball team.
The biggest question was how would Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf fare in their return from ACL surgery? While the two looked a bit rusty, it's safe to say they will improve SU's perimeter shooting. The Orange ranked 15th out 16 Big East teams in three point percentage last season. Now with the two sharp shooters back, the Orange shot 6-for-12 from beyond the arc in the first half, and shot around 43 percent for the game.
Overall, Syracuse couldn't really get into a good flow during the first half, leading 34-30 against Stevie Thompson's Cal State-Los Angeles Golden Eagles. Despite the small lead, the ‘Cuse converted 46 percent of its field goals and dished out ten assists. The Orange defense didn't look pretty though, as the rotation was a bit too slow when head coach Jim Boeheim asked his team to play man-to-man. But lucky for SU, Cal State-LA couldn't hit their open shots and shot only 30 percent, in part because of the Orange's size advantage. SU had eight blocks in the first twenty minutes.
Another question coming into the season was how would Boeheim use his two freshmen, Mookie Jones and Kris Joseph? During the first frame and throughout the game, the hall of fame coach wasn't afraid to change his lineup. Joseph played at power forward for a majority of the first half, coming in for starter Kristof Ongenaet. Jones who's a bit skinnier than Joseph, logged minutes at the two and three spots. He was very confident in his shot, hitting a two pointer and then a three in consecutive possessions for the Orange. And at the Midnight Madness event, Jones showed he's one of the most athletic players on the team. It's only one game, but Mookie Jones may be an offensive weapon off the bench for this squad.
After a shaky first half, the Orange opened the second stanza with a bang. SU went on a 10-1 run and stretched its lead to fifteen early on in the second half. The main reason the offense flowed so well was because of point guard Jonny Flynn. The sophomore used his speed and quickness to penetrate the Cal State-LA defense and had 13 points to go along with his 6 assists. If the defenders backed off, Flynn continued down the lane until he was fouled or kicked it out to open shooters on the outside. If a defender slid over to help, Flynn dished the rock to his big men Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson. It's going to be a common theme this year, but Jonny Flynn is the straw that stirs the drink on this team. He is the clear leader and as he goes, the Orange will follow suit.
Just some other quick observations from SU's 77-56 win over Cal State-LA. Arinze Onuaku was solid inside with 13 points and 8 rebounds. But don't be surprised to see sophomore Rick Jackson on the floor a lot. Jackson can be a force defensively as he grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked four shots. Speaking of defense, Boeheim had the Orange play man-to-man most of the first half. After seeing too many open shooters, Syracuse played its bread and butter 2-3 zone in the second half. Also, Boeheim threw out a number of different lineup combinations out there. The most intriguing was a three guard rotation with Flynn, Devendorf, and Rautins playing alongside Harris and Onuaku.
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